Tuesday 17 February 2009

Road Test: 2009 Citroen C3 Picasso

The mini-MPV segment is hotting up over the next few years. With Nissan, Renault, Skoda and Vauxhall/Opel already having their piece of the pie, Citroen want's in aswell.

On the road:


Those who buy the Citroen C3 Picasso can opt for four engines; a 1.4 VTi 94bhp and 120bhp 1.6 litre petrols, while diesel fans can choose a 1.6 HDi 92bhp and 110bhp engines. The 1.4 VTi is worth considering if most of your driving is around town, however, it feels a little weedy on faster roads. The 1.6 VTi also needs to be revved pretty hard, but the diesels are strong and flexible. A vague-shifting 5 speed manual gearbox is standard across the range. 2011 will see the introduction of a EGS transmission, along with a stop-start too. The 1.6 HDi 110bhp engine may be quicker, but it’s only available on the flagship Exclusive model. Citroen expects the 1.6 HDi 92bhp to be the best seller since it offers excellent fuel economy, low emissions, and reasonable performance.

Ride & handling:

The ride can be a bit lumpy in town, particularly if you choose the optional 17 inch alloy wheels, but it improves with speed, but other wise the C3 Picasso soaks up bumps very well. The C3 Picasso makes a good long-distance cruiser aswell. The steering is short of feel and there's more body lean in bends than you get in traditional superminis such as the Ford Fiesta, but the C3 Picasso is far from sloppy and it has plenty of grip.


There is some rattling from the diesel engines when you've just started them up or when you're working them hard. Life can be noisier in the petrols because you need to rev them more often. Wind noise can be heard around the windscreen and optional roof-rails at motorway pace, but it's only a minor annoyance.


Buying & owning:

The C3 Picasso is a expensive mini-MPV but Citroen dealers are famous for big discounts, so consider the price a starting point for negotiation. The petrol engines average over 40mpg with CO2 emissions of 159g/km, while the 110bhp diesel manages 57.7mpg combined (CO2 - 130g/km) and the 92bhp does 60.1mpg combined (CO2 - 128g/km). All engines sit in low company car tax bands too.

A stop-start C3 Picasso is on the way in 2011 and will offer 70mpg and emissions of just 110g/km when linked to the forthcoming 6 speed Electronic Gearbox System transmission.

Quality & reliability:

In the past, small Citroens have had poor interiors, but the C3 Picasso looks classy. There are metallic highlights around the vents and appealing heater controls. The dashboard is also nicely textured, even if the plastics themselves are hard. Citroen has a respectable record of reliability.

There's a 3 year/60,000 mile warranty if the car does fall apart.

Safety & security:

Stability control and front and side airbags are likely to be standard across the range. An immobiliser, marked parts and deadlocks should all make life difficult for thieves. Citroen is expecting a minimum of 4/5 stars when it gets tested from Euro NCAP.

In the car:

Behind the wheel:

The cabin feels airy, and forward vision is exceptional thanks to a wrap-around windscreen with very thin A-pillars. Drivers of all shapes and sizes should be able to make themselves comfortable too because there's a good range of seat and steering wheel adjustment. It's just a pity that the wheel obscures part of the well-ordered centre console.

Practicality & space:

The C3 Picasso is slightly longer than most superminis but it's a lot roomier inside, thanks to the high roofline allows more upright seating. Headroom up front is class leading. The rear bench seat is split 60/40, with the two pieces sliding back and forth, making it easily possible to have two 6 footers sitting behind each other so you can make the most of all that space. Boot capacity ranges from a generous 385 litres to 500 litres, and the rear bench and front passenger's seat can be folded flat. Fold down the rear seats and you have created a load space of 1,506 litres. A removable boot floor can be positioned at two different levels to provide either a flat load bay or a deep area for larger objects. In addition, the cabin is filled with plenty of cubby holes and storage areas.


Entry-level VT C3 Picasso' will have remote central locking, front electric windows, black electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, black door-handles, sliding rear seats, steel wheels and a CD player. Mid-level VTR+ trim gets rear electric windows and air-conditioning. Range-topping Exclusive cars should also come with luxuries such as climate control, electric folding door mirrors, chrome door-handles and parking sensors. Fold-flat front seat, picnic tables on the back of the front seats, and under-floor storage for rear-seat passengers will be available. Citroen hasn't yet confirmed if these features will be standard or optional. Options list should contain air-con, panoramic glass sunroof, alloy wheels and metallic paint. VT models are expected to miss out on full-length curtain airbags and air-conditioning. For £11k, that's poor. The Exclusive model peeks in at £14,500. Avoid going mad with the options list since this will boost the vehicles overall price.

 Should I buy one?:

Yes. The C3 Picasso is capable dynamically, but hardly involving. You are more likely to take pleasure filling its load bay than you are in actually driving it but as long as there isn’t a small MPV in the class that really stands out as an entertaining drive, that’s a forgivable flaw.

Check out the Nissan Note or Cube, Renault Modus, Skoda Roomster and the forthcoming Kia "YN" and Vauxhall/Opel Meriva before buying.

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